2021 NFL Mock Draft: The Steelers look to add an edge rusher – Behind the Steel Curtain

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2021 offseason. With free agency looming followed by the NFL draft in April, the Steelers will have a plethora of decisions and moves to make before making their first draft selection. As for the NFL combine and player pro days being in limbo as well as the opportunity for players to return to college who opted out of the 2020 college football season, there may be limited information in regards to draft prospects this year.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or running back with their first-round pick. Others feel tight end or linebacker could be on top of the list. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

In the latest two-round mock draft by NBCSports, they have the Steelers addressing the edge rusher position before anything else. With the Steelers already having one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL in T.J. Watt, drafting this position would be a bit of a luxury with rookie Alex Highsmith coming onto the scene after the season-ending injury of Bud Dupree. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.

Check out the Steelers 24th pick:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers | Jaelan Phillips | EDGE | Miami | JR |

Being early in the draft process, there may be some players most fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Phillips according to thedraftnetwork.com:

A consensus 5-star recruit, Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips played his first two seasons at UCLA before transferring to Miami where everything came together in 2020. Phillips was flashy at UCLA but played a modest amount of snaps across 11 games in two seasons. Ankle, wrist, and concussion issues limited his time on the field for UCLA before his move to Miami. Phillips’ performance in 2020 was exactly what the Bruins thought they were getting in the former prized recruit. A balanced defender, Phillips is a playmaker against the run and pass, where his exciting blend of size, length, power, technique, and athleticism make him a challenge for offenses to neutralize. Phillips is a versatile player that has experience playing with his hand in the dirt on the edge, rushing from interior alignments, and playing in space in a standup role—which makes him a fit for all teams in the NFL. The areas of concern for Phillips entering the NFL are playing with better pad level, developing consistency with his hand technique, and becoming more consistent reducing his surface area while establishing a half-man relationship with his opponents as a pass rusher. Phillips has all the makings of an impact defender at the next level, although a large sample size of high-level production in college would have been preferred.

Ideal Role: Starting 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB.

Scheme Fit: Phillips is scheme-versatile with equal appeal to even and odd front teams.

For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Phillips with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position or a different one who may still be available? Personally, I do not think this position is one the Steelers need to address with their top selection, even if they lose Bud Dupree, unless an unreal talent falls into their lap. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and remember these mock drafts are merely speculation and caused to create discussion among the fan base.

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